Abel Aguado and Devin Kester-Tyler have been Argonauts of the Ukiah streets for as long as I’ve been covering the courthouse scene. They’ve always seemed to me like a couple of well-mannered orphans in an environment where the denizens you encounter are not always friendly or sane. They do not yell incoherently at passersby or accost them in a threatening manner, like so many others do who cannot adapt to sleeping rough and owning nothing. Abel and Devin, like Jason and Hercules in their quest for the golden fleece, always impressed me as fully acclimated to the rough and tumble streets they grew up on, and even when the rain was streaming down around them as they huddled under a business porch, peering out from their hoodies with a cheerful greeting to all who passed by.
There are many hazards and dangers on the streets, such as the drug crazed skeletons of meth addicts who suddenly materialize out of nowhere and come screaming after you for no apparent reason, or some blind drunk Cyclops raging at the inequities of life and looking for somebody to take his frustration out on. And then there are the pitfalls. Like anybody on a quest, temptations will soon learn how to call your name. Abel and Devin got into the meth and it led them astray. They forgot about the golden fleece — or maybe they thought (under the confusing influence of meth) that the golden fleece was hidden in an ornate poor box at Saint Mary of the Angels Catholic Church on Oak Street in Ukiah.
In any case, in the fullness of time it came to pass that our local Argonauts broke into St. Mary’s church, smashed open that ornate donations box for the poor — the box was beautifully carved and surmounted with a little lamb of God in repose, its legs tucked under Him — so the idea that there was a golden fleece inside may have been inspired by art. But it was far more likely that the two were no longer on the nobler quest, and merely wanted money for a bag of dope. But there wasn’t enough money in the donations box, and so the two also broke into the Veterans Outpatient Clinic, just off South Orchard Avenue and, again there wasn’t enough money — there never is for an addict.
Now, this all happened long ago. It was so long ago, in fact, that by last week the two defendants were “timed-out.” That is, they had served as much time in the county jail as the offenses warranted, and must either be sent on to prison, or released and put on probation. The prosecutor, Assistant DA Dale Trigg, had made a deal with the defense lawyers to go along with the probation option, but it was going to have to be a stringent five-year term, a mandatory rehabilitation program, and an incredible amount of restitution — something like $35,000 to the Catholic Church to replace the artsy donations box, and a mere $1500, for the Veterans Clinic. There was also something about any further donations to the poor being used to make up the fabulous price of the box — golden fleece, indeed! — but I didn’t quite catch that bit, Term No. 24 of the probation, as addressed by Eric Rennert, and at any exorbitant rate, it will all be hashed out later at a restitution hearing, set for March 22, at 9 o’clock.
The most onerous part of the probation terms set for our heroes (besides the impossibly steep amount of restitution) was Assistant DA Trigg’s insistence on Term No. 13 which would break up the long-standing friendship between Devin and Abel; akin to breaking up Jason and Hercules, Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer, Laurel and Hardy, Abbott and Costello, Yogi and Boo-Boo, Rocky and Bullwinkle… Need I go on? It seemed unnecessarily harsh, and the defense lawyers (Michael Shambrook, for Abel, and Eric Rennert for Devin) objected.
In general, Judge Cindee Mayfield’s presence on the criminal court bench, entering its second year now, has been a – well, “blessing” is perhaps too harsh a word for the prosecution, since prosecutors often take offense at any suggestion that they are not as lenient as little lambs themselves – so let us rephrase what Judge Mayfield has been to the criminal court defendants in general; let us say instead that she’s been refreshingly sympathetic to the arguments of defense lawyers and their pleas for understanding on behalf of their clients.
And such was the case in regards to Term No. 13: Judge Mayfield would not impose the order that the defendants stay away from each other – unless, that is, they were to get into any further trouble together. Then down it would come, as swift and sure as that Damoclean sword.
The five-year probation would be imposed and the defendants released directly into rehab; both would be taken to the facility in San Francisco by Devin Kester-Tyler’s grandparents, who were both in court, and they were willing to take in Abel Aguado as well as their grandson when the rehab was completed – a very kindly couple who sat quietly in the back row of the gallery, and assured the lawyers and judge that Abel would be as welcome as Devin at their home.
Judge Mayfield imposed and suspended the usual fines and fees, seeing as though Term No. 24 (restitution to St. Mary’s) would take all the money these two young men could ever earn – they had no real skills or education to compete in the current job market, which has gone as crazy as the idea that a donations box is worth $35,000, and the only thing these guys could make over and above their basic needs would be approximately zip point zilch.
Sure, I’ve freighted a simple story with a cargo of Romance, Mythology, and considerable metaphor, but it was not entirely done in order to flesh-out a bare bones report that could have been wrapped up in a paragraph. Sometimes the reporter has to step down off the lofty dais of objectivity and put a story into the context of what’s reasonable and perhaps even pardonable, whereas the prosecution has to hold a certain hard line, lest the defense become intoxicated with permissiveness and turn out violent predators on the unsuspecting populace; because in our adversarial judicial system, neither side has any sense of moral limits; and even judges must follow the Almighty Law – and that is why we enjoy a free press (at least in Boonville, if not the rest of the county): To put things in a moral and reasonable perspective, because the Law, though it be all-powerful, is not always right, and only the Mighty AVA has the will to stand up to it, albeit out of a poor box.